Thursday, April 18, 2019
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The chef of the Signum, starred restaurant and hotel of the Caruso family, wins the Michelin Female Chef Award, now in its fourth edition and sponsored by the Atelier des Grandes Dames, Veuve Clicquot

Martina Caruso won the Michelin Female Chef Award 2019. She received the prize within the Atelier des Grandes Dames project by Veuve Clicquot, created to celebrate female talent in haute cuisine.

The Atelier celebrates women and the founder of the Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin winery, Madame Clicquot, who was the first businesswoman in the Champagne sector. The story of Martina Caruso, among other things, is comparable for the courage to that of Madame Ponsardin: even the Sicilian chef, in fact, was so enterprising to leave Sicily when she was 16. Mrs. Clicquot, on the other hand, had courageously held up the champagne house after her husband’s death and got around the embargo on Russia in 1814, providing 10,000 bottles of her Veuve Clicquot to the St. Petersburg court. Her wonderful story deserved to be told.

Who is Martina Caruso?

Very young, born in ’89, Martina Caruso left her island as a teenager to study in Cefalù. Immediately afterward she followed the Gambero Rosso school, and during summer she used to go back to work for the Signum. It is a moment of growth and research, supported and promoted by experiences in Italy and abroad. Her first internship was at the Rosetta in Rome, chef-owner Massimo Riccioli. A year later, Caruso is in London, where she works for the Jamie’s Italian owned by Jamie Oliver for 5 months. Her guide in this period is Gennaro Contaldo. Back in Italy, another Gennaro guides her: Gennaro Esposito of Torre del Saracino, the three-starred chef with whom she collaborates, after the Open Colonna and Pipero, at the Rex (chef Luciano Monosilio). Once back at the Signum she receives her first prizes, and awards. The first is in 2013. Since then, Martina Caruso bought up forks, hats, and stars, the first arrived in 2016 when she was only 27 years old. The Michelin star made out of her the new cooking prodigy of Italian catering and the youngest woman chef to enter the Olympus of the destinations chosen by the Red Guide.

The reactions of the protagonists

After receiving the award in the ceremony at The Yard Hotel, the chef of the Signum Hotel in Salina, Martina Caruso, said: “This award gratifies me and all the women doing a job as beautiful and tiring as ours, in which you need a lot of passion.”

Salina, an island in the island, that Caruso celebrates with “a cuisine dedicated to the sea but also to the earth since Sicily is an agricultural region as well. My cuisine is creative and joyous». The obligatory dedication for the prize, however, is for her mother Clara, because “I often spoke about my father and how he taught me this job (self-taught cook, Michele Caruso was the Signum’s chef since 1988, ed). For this – continued Martina – I want to dedicate the prize to my mother, a woman who is full of energy “. So, a pink award given to a queen of the kitchen that dedicates it to her mother and has a symbol of femininity myth: «Maria Grazia Cucinotta. I was always impressed by her determination and she is linked to our family since the days of the movie “Il Postino” by Massimo Troisi (the film was shot between Salina and Procida, on the island, there is still the house where they stopped to talk about Neruda and the postman Ruoppolo, ed).»

The “secret” that allowed her to win the 2019 edition of the Michelin Female Chef Award is not a secret: “determination and not being afraid.”

Women in the kitchen: the commitment of the Atelier des Grandes Dames

Before the award ceremony, instead, a debate was held on the ‘meaning of femininity in the kitchen,’ not as a gender difference but as another way to approach the job and the emotions in the world of haute cuisine. So that there is full awareness of the life of a female chef and the fundamental contribution that the approach of a woman can give to this world. A complex world, in which there are 43 women at the head of 41 starred restaurants.

Therefore, the Atelier des Grandes Dames by Veuve Clicquot aims to enhance the stories of women who have fought and won their wager. And this is what Caterina Ceraudo, one of the 16 chefs of the Atelier, understood and described. The Dattilo’s cook from Strongoli, Calabria, received attention nationwide: “This recognition is important to make it clear that I’m here too: in my region, the idea that the woman should stay at home cooking is still very strong.»

In this direction should be intended the motivation given by the jury of the award given to Martina Caruso, who obtained it “for the strong will and ability to progress and to represent her radiant island, through a great technique and the feminine touch of a passionate and determined young woman.”

According to the Atelier, “women chefs are precise and organized, elegant and creative, delicate and light. They know how to be determined and attentive, they know how to take care of others, feed and cuddle as mothers, but they also know how to affirm their personality without fear, heirs of an archetype of a cook who is also a woman and a mother. ” To tell it, Veuve Clicquot has chosen to use photographic images, trying to bring out and represent the meaning of femininity in the kitchen.

As a result, Martina Caruso was portrayed by Lido Vannucchi, Antonia Klugmann by Francesca Brambilla and Serena Serrani, Katia Maccari by Andrea Moretti, Solaika Marrocco by Marco Varoli.

MARTINA CARUSO, SIGNUM, 1 Michelin star, Salina – Isole Eolie (ME), by LIDO VANNUCCHI

MC With these photos I tried to convey the feminine passion of a simple and determined woman. Salina is my island, and I love it infinitely, I value its territory, and I cherish every detail; it is a volcanic land, a source of energy, that energy that flows through my veins and pushes me to do more and more. The photos tell my relationship with Salina, of which I have a profound knowledge of the places but also of the people. My life is made of fishermen who tell me the stories of the sea, and its treasures, of women who collect capers and who take care of them to preserve them, of the vegetable garden and orchards cared for by my father, of the mountain with its spontaneous herbs mushrooms, chestnuts, and roots. My femininity in the kitchen is an expression of my land.

LV I saw in Martina a young woman who, like our mothers and grandmothers, chose to indulge in a gesture of love: the gesture of a feminine kitchen. In her kitchen, love starts from her own land, from her own territory, from those farmers who provide the products, which, the chef through the act of love puts into practice, becomes cooking.


AK Cooking is a great place of freedom where people have the opportunity to express themselves beyond their appearance. The guest of a restaurant rarely sees the cook. He does not know if the chef is a man or a woman, tall, short, handsome, ugly, funny or unpleasant. The cook communicates through the product of his or her work, as a craftsman, and is evaluated based on the goodness of his plate. Nothing else. I do not think there is a difference in the technical approach, but I believe that men and women have different ways of communicating and interacting with the people they work with.

BS Antonia’s feminine approach to cooking can be seen in the relationships she establishes with all her collaborators. It can be affectionate, maternal, polite, respectful, authoritative and at the same time reassuring. She is very attentive to human relationships and to the peculiarities of people. According to us, femininity is an intrinsic characteristic of Antonia, and she expresses it in every gesture, inside and outside the kitchen. We, therefore, tried to get it out of her without stereotypes. Without focusing on clothes or winking looks, but putting her at ease in a photographic set or in the relationship with her sister, her partner, and her crew. We are very satisfied because according to us in the photos we perceive the real Antonia: shy, genuine, spontaneous and solar. Remove, subtract and understand: this is what we have done. Spontaneity did the rest.


KM Tenacity, perseverance, effort, optimization, love. Here is what a woman needs to manage a family, and the same is useful for a woman who manages a kitchen in the world of fine dining. My femininity is a perfect balance between two roles: the manager who drives with stubbornness, determination and with fighting spirit all aspects of the daily life of her business, and the chef, reference point of her female brigade, a woman who loves to cook only for her children but also for all her guests with the same passion and dedication, who does not feel the struggle of her work, because the satisfactions gratify her widely.

AM I saw in Katia not only grit, determination, commitment, and rationality, but also a bit of nostalgia and sadness. In the kitchen the movements become less rigid, Katia no longer feels under examination, in the kitchen, she is safe, at ease, in her habitat. It emerges, through her eyes and her gestures, that her conception of cooking, which preserves the intrinsic meaning of nourishment, is the gesture of a mother who nourishes her children. This is how Katia expresses her femininity, in the kitchen that becomes a maternal “gift.”


SM I could not describe my concept of femininity in the kitchen in a better way than through the look and the empathy between women and in this case with Silvia, the maître of my restaurant. The look of a woman is above all strength, not seen as a difference between man and woman, but as a peculiarity. I talk about my experience where there are no screams, broken dishes, or chaos. Sometimes, a look reproaches more than words shouted aloud and sometimes consoles and directs more than a sweet word.

It is empathy, understanding each other by communicating with a look. It is, just, respect and confidence elevated to the nth degree because where my eyes do not get, those of another woman could do it. And where I can not be there, for example in the hall with our clients, there is her gaze, and there are her words, and I am there too even without being there.

Femininity in the kitchen is first a goal, a journey made up of many obstacles, trials, and challenges. And finally having overcome, or at least the attempt to overcome, the gender distinction.

MV In a photo shoot you can get the essence of many things. Many facets of people, in front of the objective, are revealed. So with femininity that is not one, it is personal, and every woman demonstrates it in her own way. Solaika expressed in her own way how she brings her femininity in the kitchen, with a common point, readable by her eyes: the determination to make a hard and competitive job every day with passion. Out of the stereotypes of traditional culture, in its most negative sense. As a photographer, I found that her creativity was already an expression of femininity.

“Gender doesn’t matter”

Anna Klugman, known by the general public for her role in the reality show MasterChef, closed wonderfully the evening that saw Caruso rewarded within the Atelier des Grandes Dames. The starred chef has rejected the usual label of “femininity in the kitchen.” She did so by defining perfectly what is already the role of women in the restaurant industry: “For me – said Klugman – every woman in a kitchen is at stake, beyond masculinity and femininity. Gender does not matter. Professionalism and ability do. We are free in the kitchen».


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Pierluigi Capriotti
My name is Pierluigi Capriotti to be exact. Despite a degree in Architecture I'm a journalist. I write following temporary monomania and others that are chronic such reading, soccer, travels and food. When I write I use many asides – because I have the impression there is always something more to say. Because in those asides I talk about my passions. So that everybody will notice them but with nonchalance. I've never had a high regard for wisdom. And, thanks God, this helped me to leave for the foodiestrip journey with a spiritual-creative mathematician, an IT engineer who plays the Star Wars soundtrack with the coffee stirrers and a businessnerd. One way ticket. No return.